The Man With No Face, страница 1
The Man With No Face
Published by Samannah Media
All content copyright 2011 Jake Bible
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction. All characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Smashwords Edition, License Note
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
The Man With No Face
“Gone rancid,” The Man With No Face said as he sniffed the jar of bear grease in his hand. “Just like me.”
He chuckled to himself as he sat naked upon his bedroll, a small campfire lighting the scrub brush and cacti surrounding him. The flames’ light flickered across the patchwork of leathers that made up his skin.
The Man puckered his withered lips and blew. He knew what tune he wanted to whistle, but his lips hadn’t cooperated for years. Nevertheless, he bobbed his head to the wispy sound as he applied liberal amounts of the bear grease onto his leathers.
As always, when greasing himself up, The Man’s mind wandered back to how he was forced to become what he was.
His memory was spotty, and there were incidents he’d intentionally blocked out, but he remembered the POW camp the Union Army forced him in.
And he remembered one Colonel Milton.
“Hold him down, boys!” Colonel Milton shouted when they came for The Man. “The strips need to be exact or the magic ain’t gonna work!”
“He’s squirrelly, sir,” Corporal Herschel McMannon complained. “Guy won’t cooperate.”
The Man’s head rocked to the side as Private Marcus Grimes slammed an axe handle into his cheek. The world spun and he struggled to keep focus, but the ringing in his skull was near deafening.
When he’d been back in his tent, ankle deep in mud and shit, he knew it was only a matter of time before they came for him. He’d watched man after man get yanked from the tent each night. None returned. He’d tried to fight, even gouging out a Yank’s eye with his thumb, but they overwhelmed him and dragged him through the muck to the room attached to the Colonel’s quarters.
Colonel Elias Milton was short, stout and meaner than anyone The Man had ever met. He’d watched the Colonel stomp on a puppy’s head, pushing it under the mud, until the thing died from sucking mud into its tiny lungs. He’d watched the Colonel do even worse to the Confederate soldiers under his “care”.
There’d been a rumor going around that the Colonel wasn’t what he’d seemed; that he was a man of the Devil. The Man had seen plenty of evil in his days, from slaves whipped until they died on the post, to the bloodbaths that were considered battles in the War Between the States. But, the Colonel was made of a different evil. An evil that stank and smoldered behind the man’s eyes.
“Start with his face,” Colonel Milton ordered. “Keep it intact this time, you imbeciles! I don’t want to go through this again. He’s the last one that can make this happen.”
The Man was dazed enough that he didn’t feel the first cuts, but once the skin was lifted from his skull, well, he felt that.
His screams were ignored, his pleading laughed at, and his misery mocked.
And then the true horror started.
Colonel Milton placed The Man’s face on his own, blood dripping down his neck and onto his blue uniform, as he recited an incantation he knew by heart. The many candles that lit the room suddenly dimmed and the temperature dropped a good twenty degrees in seconds.
Not that The Man noticed. He was too busy screaming as his skin was removed from his body, strip by strip. He was thankful when God showed him mercy and he slipped into unconsciousness.
The Man applied the bear grease to each and every inch of his body. He made sure he worked it in good to the lacing that held the leathers to his body and held them to each other. Dry laces pulled at the leathers and in turn pulled at the points they were anchored to his flesh and bone. He hated it when the laces pulled.
He kept his dry whistling up as he thought back on the prison camp.
When he came to, The Man With No Face found himself smothered in a pile of offal and corpses. It was a pile he’d been forced to walk past everyday for a year as he was held in the camp. He’d always wondered when it was to be his turn.
He was thankful to be alive, but as feeling came back into his body, he quickly wished he wasn’t. Every nerve was on fire as he dragged himself from the pile and into the cool, wet mud that covered every inch of the camp. Flashes of what had happened to him flew through his mind, but he pushed the images and feelings aside as he slowly crawled his way to the edge of the camp. Covered in muck, he was impossible to see in the moonless night and easily slipped through the fence.
Under the cover of thick rain clouds, The Man snagged an oil cloth that was abandoned just outside the fence line and wrapped it about his exposed body. Every step was excruciating, as the Colonel had insisted they take the skin from the soles of his feet also, but The Man pushed forward and was well away from the prison camp before the dawn light pierced the overcast sky.
With the grease applied, The Man With No Face slid his trousers back on and lay back on his bedroll as the fire died next to him. He wrapped himself in his duster and watched the stars twinkle in the desert night sky. In seconds he drifted off to sleep. A sleep that was never sound and always brought him to the one place he never wanted to remember.
It took The Man With No Face six weeks to make his way to his small farm in the mountains of North Carolina. When he stumbled onto the porch, a porch he had built with his own two hands, he made sure to kiss every single board and nail, praising God the entire time.
His communion was broken by the gasps of his wife and daughters as they came out to see what the noise was. The Man With No Face, various animal skins sticking to his festering flesh where he’d attempted to cover himself, cowered in the corner of the porch, his hands waving his stunned family away.
“Dear Lord!” his wife cried out when she saw the blue of his eyes. The very eyes that drew her to him when he first came courting. “Girls, it’s you father! Get some blankets and clean rags!” The girls, three of them, just stood there, their eyes glued to the abomination that their mother insisted was their father. “GO!”
They hurried inside and The Man could hear them pounding through the house as they gathered the things their mother kept calling for as she slowly inspected her suffering husband.
“We thought you were dead,” she cried. “We got a letter saying you’d died in some Union camp.”
“Can’t kill me,” The Man whispered. “Had to get back to you.”
His wife watched him closely, and while she shuddered at the sight of him, she didn’t hesitate when it was time to remove the rotting skins. The Man whimpered with every pull, but was too exhausted to scream. His wife tried to calm him by singing softly.
“Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton,” she sang. “Old times they are not forgotten. Look away, look away…”
It took weeks for The Man to get his strength back. He slipped in and out of consciousness, his mind fevered with visions of Hell. His waking hours weren’t much better as his wife decided his body
When the day came for the final step of the process, the sewing of the leathers directly to his body, The Man, his wife, and his daughters prayed for an hour before they began the torturous ordeal. Three hours later it was done and The Man stood on his own two feet for the first time since his harried journey home.
The Man With No Face rested on his front porch and felt the breeze blow across his lips, the only part of him that wasn’t covered in leathers.
“Nice farm you got here,” the voice of Colonel Milton said as he and his men stepped from the tree line that ringed The Man’s farm house. “And what pretty girls, too.”
The Man came awake with a start, the sounds of his daughters’ screams echoing in his mind. He felt a tugging at his leg and opened his eyes to see two coyotes fighting over his right calf. In one motion he drew his Remington 1858, cocked it and fired. The first coyote’s head exploded in a spray of blood and grey fur. The second coyote fled instantly, its yelps getting quieter and quieter as it sprinted across the desert.
The Man With No Face grabbed the warm corpse of the coyote and chomped down on the bloody flesh that protruded from the headless neck. He tore chunk after chunk away and barely chewed them before swallowing. He had to race time, had to race to consume the flesh before all of the life essence drained away.
He wasn’t proud of what needed to be done, but it was his way. The only way he could survive after he fled his farm. It was the only way he could keep going. The only way he could fuel his need for vengeance upon those that killed his loved ones.
He fed until his belly was full and the blood of the coyote ran through the laces holding the leathers to his face. Satiated, he slumped back in the dirt and watched the dawn light spread across the barren landscape.
“Guess I should get up and get moving,” The Man said aloud. “The fuckers ain’t gonna kill themselves.”
“Is it me or are those buzzards getting closer?” Tim Sparr asked as he stirred the small pot of beans that hung over the campfire.
“Cain’t be,” Lester Clingman replied as he looked at the circling scavengers that glowed in the light of the setting sun. “Cain’t follow dead things.”
The two men looked at each other then back at the dozens of birds.
“You don’t think…?” Tim asked.
“I try not to,” Lester replied.
The Man With No Face fought with all his strength as the screams from his girls pierced his brain. He heard them calling his name from inside the farmhouse.
And he heard each voice stop suddenly as his worst fears came to life.
“You fuckers!” he roared. “I damn your souls to Hell!”
“Little late for that,” Colonel Milton said from around a mouthful of fresh flesh. “But your daughters’ souls may still be up for grabs.”
“Why?!?” The Man asked. “Why not just let me be?!?”
The Colonel gave The Man a sorry look, like he was entertaining the thoughts of a small, idiot child.
“Cain’t be a sacrifice if the sacrifice don’t die,” Milton said as he tossed another chunk of bloody meat into his mouth. “You ruined it for us. In order to complete the process we had to kill your kin. Blood of the blood.”
The Man With No Face fought hard, but Private Tim Sparr and Private Lester Clingman held him tight.
“Want to see them?” Colonel Milton asked. “Hey, Marcus! Johnny Reb would like to see his girls. Can you oblige?”
Marcus walked onto the porch and held a head in each hand. Blood dripped onto the boards that The Man had nailed together himself.
“Only got two hands, Colonel,” Marcus grinned as he brought one of the necks to his mouth and drank from the drippings. “He’ll have to go inside to see the third one. Bitch put up a fight, though. Her head ain’t as pretty as these.”
The Man With No Face fell to his knees and his salty tears spilled onto the leathers that were his cheeks. All his strength left him and he crumpled into a wilted shell of a man.
“What we gonna do with his bitch wife?” Herschel called from inside the house.
“Do what you will,” the Colonel replied. “Then send her to the same fate has her girls.”
The Colonel walked down the porch and onto the grass where The Man lay. He pulled his pistol and took aim.
“Has a kinda symmetry if you really think about it,” the Colonel said as he pulled the trigger.
The Man’s chest bloomed with blood and he gasped several times before his eyes closed and the life drained from his tortured body.
“How’s that, sir?” Sparr asked.
“How’s what?” the Colonel responded, taking yet another bite of the meat he’d cut from one of The Man’s daughters.
“Symmetry, sir,” Sparr clarified.
“Oh, I don’t know, Sparr,” the Colonel laughed. “Just sounded like something to say before I sent the bastard to Hell.”
“You be dead!” Sparr shouted as he pulled his Colt and took aim at The Man With No Face. “The Colonel killed you!” He fired twice and The Man stumbled back from the impacts, but no blood flowed. The Colt fell from Sparr’s fingers, terror overtaking his muscles.
“And the Devil brought me back,” The Man said as he stepped over the corpse of Lester Clingman.
Clingman’s head was twisted 180 degrees so that Tim Sparr could only see the man’s bald spot. The bald spot was covered in blackheads, slick with grease, and shined from the light of the campfire. Tim Sparr didn’t know whether to look at the bald spot or at The Man With No Face. His mind couldn’t quite grasp what was happening.
“You cain’t kill us!” Sparr shouted. “We’s protected by the Colonel! He said we’d live forever!”
“That may be true,” The Man said as he slid two cartridges into the cylinder of his pistol. The campfire reflected off the brass they were made from and Sparr’s eyes were drawn to the sigils carved into the metal. “But there’s always a loophole somewhere.”
Sparr shook his head. “Cain’t be. Colonel said the spell was unbreakable.”
Clingman’s body convulsed and his head straightened back around. Without looking, The Man With No Face fired into the fallen man’s chest. Blood and bone exploded out the man’s back and his eyes met Sparr’s briefly before glazing over, dead forever.
“No, no, no, no,” Sparr whined. “No! He’ll come back. He will!”
“Well, how about I set a bit with you and we find out,” The Man said as he took a seat by the campfire. He reached down and grabbed the bowl of beans Clingman had dropped when the two men were interrupted by The Man’s uninvited appearance. “You don’t mind if I eat, do you?”
Sparr just shook his head as he waited for Clingman to breathe again.
“You sure?” The Man With No Face asked. “These beans won’t really give me any sustenance, but it’s nice to taste something other than blood. You should eat up. Gonna be your last meal.”
“Why…why don’t you just kill me now?” Sparr asked. “If you’s right then why not get it over with?”
“Because I am right,” The Man replied. He set the bowl aside. “These are some good beans! You put sage in here, didn’t you?” He looked into Sparr’s terrified eyes. “You want to know why I don’t take my pistol and put one of my special bullets right between your eyes, that it?”
“Simple, Tim. You don’t mind if I call you Tim, do you?”
Sparr shook his head.
“Good, good,” The Man continued. “Well, Tim, I want you to know for sure that Mr. Clingman there ain’t coming back. I want you to know for a fact that when I do put a bullet between your eyes that you ain’t coming back neither.” The Man leaned closer, his leathery face illuminated by the campfire. “I want you to know for 100% ce
Sparr bolted from the campfire, but his progress was slowed considerably by the knife that flew from The Man’s hand and into Sparr’s leg. He tumbled to the ground and tried to pull the blade out, but only managed to tear the wound further.
“Barbed,” The Man said as he got up and ripped the knife from Sparr’s flesh, shredding muscle and ligament on its bloody way out. He showed Sparr the symbols etched onto the specially hooked blade. “Oh, and it can kill you too, but I prefer a bullet.” The Man wiped the blade on Sparr’s dingy clothes. “Something about the immediacy of the death that gives me pleasure.”
“I never wanted to hurt your family,” Sparr cried. “It was the Colonel. He insisted we finish the ritual. Said your kin had to die or we’d lose our souls to the Devil by the next harvest moon.”
The Man glared down at Sparr. “And who do you think your soul is gonna go to when I end you?”
Sparr didn’t answer.
The Man sat back down and picked up the bowl of beans. “Damn, these are good. It’s sage, right?”
The Man With No Face pulled on his duster as he looked at the corpses of Sparr and Clingman that were already starting to bloat in the desert heat. He leaned down and placed a gold coin on each body.
“I’ll let the Colonel know you’re waiting for him down below,” The Man said. “He should be pleased to know you’ll all be one happy family again.”
He put on his hat and set off from the campsite, his nose telling him exactly where he needed to go. The Damned gave off a powerful scent and The Man With No Face knew that scent better than any person that walked the earth.
It was his scent, too, after all.
The sun beat down on The Man, making him boil with a thirst he knew he could never quench. He heard a splat and looked over at his right shoulder.
“Damn beasts,” The Man With No Face muttered.
He took off his duster and slapped a handful of dirt on the fresh excrement. After a few wipes he had most of it off.